4 militants, 2 civilians, 2 soldiers killed in Kulgam

4 militants, 2 civilians, 2 soldiers killed in Kulgam

25 injured in clashes after gunfight in Frisal; 4 critically-injured referred to Srinagar hospitals; 3 militants give slip to forces; Hizb, LeT pay tributes to slain militants

Four militants, two soldiers and a civilian were killed in a 10-hour-long fierce gunfight in Frisal village of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Sunday, while another civilian was killed during protests that broke out in the area later, taking the overall death toll to eight, officials and witnesses said. Three soldiers were also injured, two of them critically, in the gun-battle while the house where the militants had taken shelter was blown up.

The killings triggered massive protests near the encounter site while government forces used pellets, bullets and teargas shells to quell the demonstrations, killing one protester and injuring at least 25 others, the witnesses said. The injured civilians are being treated at District Hospital Anantnag while four of the grievously injured were referred to Srinagar hospitals for specialized treatment, according to doctors at DH Anantnag.

A police official said following a specific tip-off about presence of militants, the Army’s 1 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF and Special Operations Group of J&K Police cordoned off Nagbal locality of Frisal at around 11.30 pm (on Saturday).

He said: “Few soldiers entered the suspected residential house of Abdul Majid Reshi for search. The militants there started indiscriminately firing towards them.”

He said the cordon was tightened to ensure the militants don’t escape.

He said two soldiers were killed and three others injured during the initial exchange of fire “while they entered the house.”

The slain soldiers were identified as Lance Naik Bhandoriya Gopal Singh of Ahmadabad Gujarat and Sepoy Rughbeer Singh of Chamoli Uttrakhand. The injured soldiers included a Major-rank officer, PK Nigam and Rifleman, Shiraz Ahmaws.

“Four local militants—two belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen and two belonging to Lashkar-I-Toiba—were also killed during the encounter which ended at around 11 am on Sunday,” said the police official.

He said all the slain militants, including two new recruits, hailed from Kulgam and were “active for quite some time.”

“The militants who were killed were identified as Mudasir Ahmad Tantray alias Asim of Redwani Bala area in Qaimoh (affiliated with LeT); Wakeel Ahmad Thokar of Harigam Kulgam (also associated with LeT); Farooq Ahmad Bhat of Chak Dasand (affiliated with Hizb) and Younus Lone of Hawoora-Mishpora (affiliated with Hizb). Lone was active in the militant ranks since January 7 this year,” the police official said.

Reports said after heavy exchange of fire between the militants and forces, the latter blew up the house where the militants were holed up with Improvised Explosive Devices during the wee hours. The forces conducted searches and recovered the bodies of four militants from the debris, they said.

The body of 38-year-old Aashiq Reshi, son of house owner Abdul Majid, was also recovered from the debris, the police official said. Aashiq was working as a Casual Labourer in Public Health Engineering department and is survived by wife, two kids besides his parents and brother.

“We made the best possible efforts to rescue the civilian. We also made the elderly people to use a Public Address System to urge the civilian to come out of the house, but he didn’t,” said Brigadier R Chakrwarty, Commanding Officer of Sector-1 of Army.

He said they even halted the operation till wee hours so that civilian comes out safely. “It might probably be the first case of militants taking a civilian hostage,” he said.

However, locals and family members of Ashiq refuted the army version, saying he was used as a human shield by army.

“As the cordon was laid, all the family members were asked to come out. However, the army asked both sons of Reshi—Aashiq and Muhammad Shafi—to accompany them inside their house, which they did,” locals told Greater Kashmir. They said while Shafi managed to come out, Aashiq couldn’t.

Meanwhile, police sources said three of seven militants in the house managed to give forces a slip.

“The three probably took advantage of darkness and managed to flee. One of them was probably a top Hizb commander,” the sources said.

They said one of the militants might have received a bullet injury while escaping from the scene of the encounter.

“Many militants have been killed since November last year but today’s gunfight is first in Kulgam district (since 2015) where more than 30 local militants are active,” the police sources said.

 

Thousands attended funeral of militants, Younis and Muddasir, at Redwani Bala village in southern Kulgam district on Sunday PHOTO Mir Wasim/GK

 

CIVILIAN KILLED, 25 INJURED

Witnesses said as soon as the word about Frisal gunfight spread this morning, people from different villages of Kulgam, Bijbehara and Shopian rushed to the encounter site in a bid to help the militants escape. But, they said, the forces had already blown up the house and then lobbed shells and fired pepper-gas to disperse the protesters.

Later, as the news of the militants’ killing spread, people held massive protest demonstrations and clashed with forces, they said.

“The forces first used pellets and later resorted to indiscriminate firing, injuring scores of protesters,” the witnesses said.

A local Health official said while few injured were treated at Sub-District Hospitals at Yaripora and Bijbehara, 25 injured were shifted to District Hospital Anantnag”.

“A majority of injured persons had bullet injuries while five civilians had teargas shell or pellet injuries,” he said.

Doctors said one of the critically injured, who had sustained bullet injury in abdomen, succumbed at District Hospital Anantnag. He was later identified as 22-year-old Mushtaq Ahmad Itoo S/O Muhamad Ibrahim of Hatigam village of Srigufwara area of Bijbehara in Anantnag district.

Four of the critically-injured, having bullet injuries, are being treated at SKIMS and SMHS hospitals in Srinagar while two with pellet injuries in eyes were also being treated at SMHS hospital.  They were identified as Younis Ahmad Sheikh S/O Muhamad Akbar of Qaimoh-Kulgam (bullet in left thigh) and Bilal Ahmad Rather son of Muhamad Ashraf of Redwani-Qaimoh (bullet injury on right side of scapula-near chest) and Ovais Ahmad son of Muhamad Abdullah of Lassipora-Pulwama ( bullet injury in chest).

“It was mayhem. The forces were firing in all directions and it seemed they had come to kill all of us,” said an injured civilian Shakil Ahmad (16) of Reshipora- Shopian who is nursing bullet injury in his arm at District Hospital Anantnag.

The family of Danish Ahmad Mir, a class 11th student who sustained bullet injury in abdomen and was later referred to Srinagar, said: “I was going for tuitions to Yaripora when the forces shot at me.”

Danish lost his father Nazir Ahmad Mir in 2006 in a cross-firing incident, according to locals. His two elder sisters and mother were wailing as he was being ferried to a Srinagar hospital in an ambulance.

Emotional scenes were witnessed at DH Anantnag as more and more injured poured in from Frisal.  People held a massive protest demonstration inside the hospital premises.

Announcements were made on Public Address System and people from Old Town rushed towards the hospital to provide assistance to the injured. Many youth were seen donating their blood.

Later, people organized ‘Langars’ (community kitchen) and provided meals to the attendants at the hospital.

 

THOUSANDS JOIN FUNERAL PRAYERS

Meanwhile, thousands of people participated in the funeral prayers of civilians Aashiq Reshi of Frisal and Mushtaq Ahmad of Hatigam-Srigufwara amid pro-freedom and anti-India sloganeering, witnesses said. The situation in Kulgam district and Bijbehara area was tense when last reports came in. Clashes also erupted in Old Town and Khanbal areas of Anantnag town.

Meanwhile, thousands also turned up at the funeral of slain militants at their native villages Redwani, Hawoora, Check Dasan and Harigam in Kulgam district. 

“Several gun-wielding masked militants made appearance in Redwani and Hawoora and offered gun salute to their colleagues, Mudasir Ahmad Tantray and Muhammad Younis Lone,” witnesses said.

 

POLICE VERSION

In an official statement this evening, police said: “Four militants were killed in an encounter with police and security forces in Kulgam today. In this encounter two Army personnel and a civilian also lost their lives.”

“Acting on a specific information about the presence of militants in Nagbal, Frisal area of Kulgam District, Kulgam Police along with Ist-RR and 18th BN of CRPF cordoned off the suspected house and started the search operation. During the cordon, three militants managed to escape. Consequently, the hiding militants opened fire on the joint search party. In the initial firing, two soldiers of Ist RR identified as Raguveer Singh and Bandoriya Gopal Singh were killed, besides a civilian identified Ishfaq Majeed Reshi son of Abdul Majeed Reshi also got killed. Further, two more security forces personnel received grievous injuries,” the police spokesman said.

“In the operation four militants were killed who were identified as Farooq Ahmad Bhat son of Abdul Gani Bhat of Checki Dessand, Mohammad Younis Lone son of Ghulam Qadir Lone of Hawoora, both from HM outfit and Mudisir Ahmad Tantary @ Assim son Mohammad Akbar Tantary of Redwani Kulgam, Wakeel Ahmad Thoker son of Mohammad Ahsan resident of Hadigam, both of LeT militant outfit.”

“These slain militants were involved in several incidents of militancy including killing of policemen. In the aftermath of encounter, law and order situation occurred in which some individuals sustained injuries. Among the injured one person identified as Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo son of Mohammad Ibrahim, resident of Hatigam, Srigufwara succumbed to his injured. In this connection investigation is going on,” the spokesman said.

 

 

Thousands attended funeral of militants, Younis and Muddasir, at Redwani Bala village in southern Kulgam district on Sunday PHOTO Mir Wasim/GK


HIZB, LET PAY TRIBUTES

Militant outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen paid rich tributes to militants and civilians killed in Kulgam on Sunday.

Local news-gathering agency CNS quoted Operational Spokesperson of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Burhanuddin, as saying over phone:  “Four local Hizb militants put up a brave show during the night-long gun-battle. Our militants resisted the Indian might and killed many army-men. Several Indian soldiers were killed while many of them suffered disabilities. Security establishments hide the truth to stop demoralizing their men.”

“The attacks on Indian Security Bases will continue till the Freedom Movement is not taken to its logical conclusion,” Burhanuddin said, adding: “The youth are sacrificing their lives for a sacred cause and we will never compromise with their holy blood.”

Lashkar-e-Toiba paid rich tributes to four militants killed in a gun-battle at Frisal, stating that the slain militants fought bravely with the forces.

According to a statement issued here by the LeT chief Mehmood Shah, all the four militants fought bravely with the forces and offered their lives for a sacred cause. “Forces got frustrated by the courage shown by the militants and with the result, they opened fire on the innocent people killing two civilians and injuring dozens,” Shah said.

He said it is highly condemnable that forces target innocent civilians after failing to fight the militants.  “Forces use civilians as a human shield to avoid causalities.  In the Kulgam gunbattle, three army men were killed while an officer sustained injuries,” he said.

Shah said 2017 will prove result-oriented.  “It is high time rather need of the hour to identify the informers and make the freedom movement more strong.  We salute the people for taking part in huge numbers in the funerals of slain militants,” he said.